Louis van Gaal has expressed his disappointment after Manchester United’s defeat at West Ham dented his side’s chances to secure the Champions League ahead of next season. The Dutch boss, nevertheless, urged his players to react with a victory against Bournemouth in the team’s last game of the season as he still hopes Manchester City to drop points against Swansea to get the top four. The manager, meanwhile, said that the attack on the team bus by the Hammers fans before the game is not an excuse for the defeat.
The Premier League giants looked in line to arrive to the last game of the season with the Champions League place firmly secured, after Anthony Martial scored a braced goal in the second half to cancel Diafra Sakho’s earlier opener. But Michail Antonio and Winston Reid turned around the game, giving the Hammers a deserved victory in an emotional farewell to their Boleyn Ground.
“I think the disappointment is because we were 2-1 ahead. We changed the match in our favour, in a fantastic way. Then you lose because of the set-plays. I said before the match that we would try to organise everything but still we missed by centimetres. We had a lot of set-play goals against us and that is disappointing because it had a big consequence. You lose a game you have to win,” van Gaal said in his post match conference.
“I said in my [pre-match] press conference that the emotion of this match – a farewell to the stadium – shall influence a lot. You’ve seen it. The fans were supporting from the first minute, singing. Of course that was a big influence. As Manchester United you have to cope with that. The circumstances before the match were unusual and that will be an influence but I’m not looking for excuses. When you are 2-1 ahead with 20 minutes to play you have to make the ball big and keep the ball better. We gave a lot of fouls away, then you invite the set plays.”
The defeat leaves United two points behind fourth-place rivals Manchester City; with only one game remaining, van Gaal has refused to give up on their Champions League hopes.
“Still in the last match of the season we can pass over Manchester City,” he said. “They can lose and we can win – then we are fourth. In this league it happens a lot [surprise results] and Swansea City are on a very good run. But we have to beat Bournemouth and that’s also tough.
“We have fought the whole season for a qualification position for the Champions League. And still we are fighting until the end. On the last day we can finish fourth. It’s still possible… only now we are depending on City. Before this game we had it in our own hands, so that’s the difference. Every defeat is disappointing. Tonight is a mental blow but against Bournemouth we have to give everything so we don’t give Manchester City a free trip into the Champions League.”
Manchester United’s bus was attacked by Hammers fans as it made its way towards the Boleyn ground, causing the scheduled 7.45pm kick-off to be delayed by 45 minutes. But van Gaal refuses to use the incident as an excuse for the defeat.
“It is not the first time it’s happened. Okay, I have a long experience in football – some players don’t have that,” the boss said. “It shall have an influence but I don’t think we have to look for excuses. We chased the match in the second half. Twenty minutes before full-time we are ahead. I don’t think you have to look to that [the bus incident] as an excuse.”